Seattle Times Op-Ed: Indigenous knowledge is critical to understanding climate change

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

As we prepare to join Saturday’s March for Science, please understand that by integrating traditional knowledge with Western science, we can solve some of our biggest challenges, including those brought by our changing climate.

Good science is critical to our health, ability to live full lives and community well-being. We use science to advance medicine, enhance our use of natural resources, ensure our food supply and much more. That’s why more than a million people around the world joined the March for Science in 2017 and why we are gearing up again to march for science on April 14.

Western science is just one way of knowing. Indeed, traditional knowledge and wisdom of indigenous peoples is recognized by the United Nations for its potential to sustainably manage complex ecosystems. Yet all too often, Western science has disregarded centuries of science-based knowledge coming from Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

Indigenous peoples have lived in our particular locations for many generations, and we define ourselves in relation to our home environment. Our deep and long-standing relationships with the environment are unique; our very existence depends on our ability to conserve and maintain our lands and waters for future generations.

Today, tribes, First Nations, indigenous peoples and Aboriginals are sounding a loud alarm about the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels, broken natural systems, and increasing fire and flooding are apparent and documented.

For example, stocks of many fish species like Pacific hake are sensitive to ocean temperature along the California Current, and recent declines in their numbers have serious implications for the well-being of my own Makah Tribe.

While others debate the causes of climate change, we who live close to the land are experiencing major impacts from our changing climate and call for immediate and strong action to protect the resources on which we all rely. We can’t afford to disregard indigenous knowledge about climate change.

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

Growing up as a member of the Makah Tribe, I relied on the empirical knowledge of my ancestors to determine where to fish and how to locate other sources of food. My community relied on indigenous experiences to understand how to keep ourselves healthy.

When I was a child, my father taught me to navigate our ocean territory through currents, tides and landmarks. This knowledge, along with the life cycle of fish and time of year, allowed for the successful, sustainable harvest of species such as halibut, black cod and lingcod. In the years that followed, my peers and I transferred knowledge to other members of the family who integrated the information into current fishing and management practices.

As a youth, I’d get up in the mornings, often before sunrise, and leave the house overlooking a beach. There was no backpack, no lunch box. I was taught what our land would provide through all the seasons: roots, berries, sea urchins and mussels, to name a few. The knowledge of how, where and when to harvest is a way of life, always done in a manner that ensures the resources are sustained for the next person. These teachings and values laid the foundation for the work I completed in tribal leadership.

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

To our north, Tlingit and Haida elders observe young herring following older herring to spawning grounds. When industrial fishing removes the elder herring from spawning sites, the stock is destroyed, as the young fish can no longer find their way home. Failure to heed these traditional observations is leading to the demise of herring and threatening aspects of Tlingit and Haida culture that are closely tied to herring.

A recent news item featured the astonishing observation that birds in Australia intentionally spread fire by carrying burning sticks. While this is fascinating, it has long been known to the Aboriginals. Using fire as a management tool is widespread throughout indigenous cultures. Makah is no exception. For centuries our ancestors used fire to manage crops of cranberries and tea. These resources are currently threatened by our changing climate, as well as the laws and regulations that govern the use of fire.

© Cameron Karsten Photography The Nature Conservancy at the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, WA with Tribal member TJ

Respecting and embracing indigenous knowledge as important science benefits all of us. In looking for solutions to the environmental dilemmas that confront us, it is critical to apply indigenous knowledge. All of us are looking for a better understanding of the Earth and her ecosystems. By integrating traditional knowledge with Western science, together we can solve some of our biggest challenges, including those brought by our changing climate.

As communities worldwide prepare to March for Science, this focus is appropriate and important. Threats to scientific knowledge must be rejected, and decision making based on fact must be embraced. Equally important, we should also embrace 10,000-plus years of field observation by indigenous peoples around the world.

This empirical knowledge has sustained people and cultures and has laid the groundwork for many modern “discoveries.” Indigenous peoples are truly the experts of their area and place, with a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and our role in conserving resources for future generations.

Original Post (April 10, 2018)

Tearsheet: Seattle Met’s “Secrets of the Olympic Peninsula” Feature

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Jane S., Seattle Met’s Art Director, called and sent me out on a little circuitous route on the Olympic Peninsula. I was happy to oblige, as jumping in my Tacoma with a cab packed of camera gear and a bed setup for camping, is one of my simplest pleasures. Below are the resulting images. But first a quick write up about “How We Got Those Shots” in the Behind The Scenes section:

“There is never enough time, especially when it comes to visiting one of the many outdoor escapes our state has to offer. Fortunately, photographer Cameron Karsten – who is that perfect combination of avid outdoorsman and stellar photographer – is no stranger to the Olympic Peninsula, star of this month’s cover story. The photo on our table of contents is from a fishing trip Karsten took, and the surf shot you’ll find in the feature is of one of his buddies. Of course, being near the coast means weather is always a factor. Karsten’s visit in early June was no exception. There were slight breaks in the clouds, but the sky stayed frustratingly gray and rainy. Which brings me to the cover; while Cameron did get some striking photos of the peninsula’s famous Tree of Life, our web editor (and occasional staff photographer), Alison Klein, happened to be camping there the week prior – and captured some sun-soaked-near-dusk shots we just couldn’t resist.” – Jane S., Seattle Met art director

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And for a better view:

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

Olympic Penninsula Top 25 for Seattle Met

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STORMR Deer Camp: Into the Hoh Rainforest (Pt. IV)

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When there is a river nearby, there must be fish. Always bring your fly rod, seek the thrill and reel in those steelhead. Somewhere up the S. Fork Hoh River on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State on a Stormr assignment.

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STORMR Deer Camp: Into the Hoh Rainforest (Pt. II)

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It rained and then it poured. With STORMR gear, the woodsmen were kept warm as a low ceiling of clouds passed, and dry as the hiking became arduous with sweat and fatigued. Heavy ferns draped in our path while carpets of green moss stretched before us. Animal trails were easy to find, their beaten paths the only thing breaking the wildness of the Hoh Rainforest. These led us to the wide open swaths of America’s logging industry.

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Cameron Karsten Photography

STORMR Deer Camp: Into the Hoh Rainforest (Pt. I)

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Recently, I ventured into the Hoh Rainforest with STORMR foul-weather gear for a 4-day 3-night adventure. With four woodsmen we explored a sodden mossy wilderness furthest from humanity. These are the western edges of the Olympic Peninsula; a place so remote and ecologically diverse that it could be considered its own evolutionary island.

What we were in search of was the elusive black-tail buck. What we discovered were torrential downpours, rivers full of returning steelhead and King salmon, as well as pockets of clear-cut forests amidst pristine woodlands of idyllic nature where migratory elk bugled near the trails of deer, bear, and cougar scat.

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For more visit www.STORMRrusa.com and www.CameronKarsten.com

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Cameron Karsten Photography

STORMR Campaign: Olympic Wildness Pt. III

_N9A4726After a night’s rest, the men returned to the waters, this day wading into the flowing waters of the Olympic tributaries. Their STORMR foul-weather gear proved protective and durable as fishermen Simon Pollack and Skyler Vella threw flies before returning steelhead and salmon.

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For a complete portfolio, please visit www.CameronKarsten.com

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STORMR Campaign: Olympic Wildness – Pt. II

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Fishermen Simon Pollack and Skyler Vella reload and reseek the elusive steelhead within the Wild Olympics on a recent campaign for STORMR foul-weather gear.

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For a complete portfolio, please visit www.CameronKarsten.com

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Olympic Day Hiking – The Brothers

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Spent a sunny summer day hiking to the base of The Brothers on the Olympic Peninsula, reaching just above the tree-line before running out of time.  An hour and twenty minutes up to Lena Lake and then an additional three hours upwards.  We passed below massive pines and wound through streams that disappeared beneath the riverbeds.

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Cameron Karsten Photography

Post-Apocalyptic Youth Survival Group

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Here’s a look at the newest project, creating a youth group surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.  Living as a nomadic family, these characters have bonded and divided up the tasks in order to hunt, cook, carry, prepare and maintain within a hostile world.  They’re in constant threat, picking their way through a tattered landscape, foraging for their everyday amenities.  Thank you to the Field’s family for participating and going along with my vision.

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YouthPortraits-35Portrait of the Water-Bearer

YouthPortraits-40Portrait of the Fire-Carrier

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YouthPortraits-217The Pool of the Un-Drinkable

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YouthPortraits-213Fishing the Uninhabitable

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Portrait of the Warrior

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Portrait of the Warrior II

YouthPortraits-247The End of Innocence

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Cameron Karsten PhotographyFor more visit http://www.CameronKarsten.com

Photo Essay: Wood – A Story from the Olympic Peninsula (Pt. III)